Ontario breast cancer screening program benefits high-risk women through early detection: report

Mari-Len De Guzman
October 02, 2013
By
Oct. 2, 2013 — Women in Ontario with a higher risk of developing breast cancer are seeing their cancers caught earlier, a new report from Cancer Care Ontario’s breast cancer screening program showed.
The latest report from the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) includes results from the screening program for women identified as being at high risk for breast cancer.

Since 2011, more than 2,200 women have been screened as part of the high-risk program and 35 breast cancers were detected (about 16 cancers per 1,000 women). In comparison, detection rates for the general population average between three and four cancers per 1,000 women.

"The addition of MRI to routine mammography has proven invaluable in cancer detection for these patients." said Dr. Derek Muradali, radiologist in chief with Cancer Care Ontario.

"One of the cornerstones of the program centres on the ability to navigate these women through an often complicated path involving genetic testing, counseling, follow-up tests and biopsies. This is the first organized high-risk screening program in the world, and the increased cancer detection rate shows that the model is a successful one.  I foresee the program as forming the basis for developing other high-risk screening programs internationally."

Breast cancer is the most common cancer afflicting Canadian women, affecting one in nine women in their lifetime. However, less than one per cent of women in the general population are at high risk for breast cancer. Women are considered to be at high risk for the disease if they meet specific criteria, including being a known gene mutation carrier (e.g., BRCA 1 or BRCA 1).

Women confirmed to be at high risk for breast cancer are recommended to have yearly mammograms and breast MRIs between the ages of 30 and 69. Women at average risk for breast cancer are recommended to have a mammogram every two years between the ages of 50 to74.

The OBSP was launched in 1990, and its high-risk screening program began in July 2011. Approximately 34,000 women (aged 30 to 69 years) in Ontario are at high risk for breast cancer, according to Cancer Care Ontario.

Genetic assessment – such as counselling and testing, if appropriate – is available to women with a referral from a physician, sent either directly to the genetics clinic or via the OBSP for women aged 30 to 69.

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